It’s more than just music. It’s more than just a live performance. It’s an experience.
The project is the techno alias of esteemed trance producer Gareth Emery. LSR/CITY fuses melodic techno with emotional sounds to create a musical landscape that induces pure elation on the dancefloor. The tunes are accompanied by an unforgettable laser visual experience that is wildly immersive and ground-breaking. Indeed, the live set’s production may make Emery the new king of lasers.
Emery’s debut release as LSR/CITY is “Like A Prayer,” featuring 21-year-old London-based singer Annabel. The track skyrocketed to success, boasting 20 millions plays and one million shares across social media. The experiential project is another impressive achievement in Emery’s illustrious career, as it shows his multifaceted music-making capabilities and his expertise in curating a memorable live show, which took a year to plan.
Today, November 17th, the tastemaker further exemplifies his production prowess by releasing “house in the streetlight.”
The track takes melophiles on a trip that begins with bubbly beats and soothing vocals, with soft basslines and angelic soundscapes following. Fast-paced bass then takes center stage, leading into an explosion of erratic synths and pounding basslines designed to make the dancefloor go off. The song returns to its celestial beginnings and heavenly toplines before the drop hits again. Certainly, the song is sonically stunning and masterfully produced.
According to Emery, he was so focused on creating the multi-sensory laser production for six months that he didn’t have much time to write music. Then, he says he was watching television one night, and the idea for the song came to him, giving him “the vibes I look for in music,” which are happiness, sadness and feelings of home. Subsequently, he went to the studio and wrote “house in the streetlight” in one evening. He adds that the tracks’ singer, Annabel, is the vocalist of LSR/CITY, as the two have been creating tunes together for the past four years.
The sound designer created the single five days before Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Las Vegas, where he played it on the main stage, Kinetic Field, during his Gareth Emery set—his trance music project.
“[‘House in the streetlight’] was immediately the one [that] when I played it, fans were sort of trying to figure out what it was called,” Emery says. “There are already YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands of views trying to figure out what the song is called. It had that organic reaction from our audience.”
He notes that performing at Kinetic Field is an interesting dichotomy as it is high-pressure music-wise and low-pressure production-wise. He explains that the set was his first time playing the acclaimed festival’s main stage, which can fit 70,000 people, since 2014. Drawing a crowd of many people makes for an “unforgiving environment.” Conversely, the stage has minimal visual production since the setup boasts a very artistic design. Insomniac, the company behind EDC Las Vegas, is in charge of the production for Kinetic Field, putting less demand on artists. The lack of visuals wouldn’t have allowed for a LSR/CITY show.
Emery says he’s always loved lasers and wanted to ensure plenty are at his melodic techno shows. “LSR/CITY began by seeing how far we could push it,” he says. “Lasers are the one thing we are super passionate about.”
The song selector says his goal during lockdown was to learn Premier and Final Cut video design programs. Doing so allowed him to become involved in LSR/CITY’s production. He and his team would scope out shows with the most hype around their production value, and they realized they could surpass the visual production of those sets.
“[We would] look at these amazing lasers of [a] show and go, ‘Wow, that’s f***ing s***. We can do better than that,’” Emery says. “A lot of it was going, ‘Let’s make this our thing that this show is entirely about. Let’s be fairly minimal in terms of screens and effects and all that stuff and make it all about the lasers.’ And once we did our first tour, which was late last year, people fell in love with the show. Then it’s like, ‘Right, lasers are our thing.’ If you’re going for one reason, it’s going to be lasers.”
“If you’re able to deliver that experience, there’s an awful lot of people that want to go to shows, but the gap between those acts that can deliver that experience and those that can’t is getting a lot bigger,” he adds.
Emery says he entered the world of melodic techno because “I’m always trying to find something different, something that excites me.” While the producer says he loves trance music and has been making it for 20 years, he wishes to vary his sonic capabilities “to make life more interesting.”
“I never wanted to do the exact same style of music all my life,” he says. “When you’re known for a certain style, in some ways, it’s great because people know exactly what to expect. And in some ways, it sucks because when you make something that sits slightly outside of that, the audience can be like, ‘Oh, that’s not why we listen to you. We expected you to make that stuff that you’ve always [released].’ I guess having had that realization that I can’t experiment that much on records released as Gareth Emery at this point, LSR/CITY could become, as well as this multi-sensor experience, an outlet for crazy experimentation, which I’m really enjoying.”
Surely, Emery wishes to keep pushing music forward and reinvent himself as an artist. He says he finds inspiration by being “in tune with younger acts” who create music differently from what has been previously done.
“I try and look at those acts [to] see what we can learn from them,” the producer says. “It’s easy to be threatened when somebody comes in and does something completely differently. It’s generally a better approach to go, ‘Why are they being successful? What are they doing that we were missing?’”
He cites TikTok as an example. He says many artists with storied careers like his didn’t want to create video content since they were used to Instagram and its horizontal video format. This desire to not conform included Emery, but he later realized he needed to master creating vertical videos to share his music in a way that would increase engagement. The genre-defying producer believes that the industry discovers something new about every three years, noting previous changes such as the transition from vinyl to CDs, the shift from MP3 downloads to streaming, the move from magazines to social media and the evolution from Facebook to Instagram. “You’ve got to be open to this ever-changing landscape,” he says, “and be ready to adapt because if you don’t, you’re going to fade away pretty quickly.”
Emery notes that the aforementioned shifts in music intake are the most significant changes he’s seen in the industry during his career. He says the music scene was the first to be crushed by the Internet, particularly with programs like Napster and file sharing. He says the industry was unprepared for this, and most music executives in the early 2000s assumed that the internet would disappear and be banned.
“I think the fact that music got so and is still kind of unf***ing itself from that period served as a good warning to other industries,” Emery says. “TV was much more ready to deal with the Internet than music was.”
He says this change caused by the Internet has “taken two decades to play out,” citing how artists used to make money selling their music and now very few of them profit from music streaming. Touring, he adds, has become more critical, but “I don’t think we’ve still fully seen how that’s going to play out.”
Regarding the club scene, the LSR/CITY project creator says there was “this amazing time” when dance music first hit the United States, and “being there for that wave was just amazing.” He says entering the industry during that golden era allowed many artists to be “in the right place at the right time” since clubs were packed three nights a week. Lockdown, though, brought the industry to a halt, but it has since recovered to a point where things feel “healthy” again and “there’s a pretty good scene all the way across the world.” Despite the industry returning to normalcy, he says audience expectations have since shifted because people now want something more than just music.
“I think the biggest change that has come, which certainly has inspired LSR/CITY, is that I don’t think people just want to go out and listen to a deejay the way they did 10 years ago when dance music first landed in [North] America,” Emery says. “I think it’s very much that if you have an experience, and that experience can take many shapes, people want to go out for an experience rather than just going out for music. I think artists are going to have to adapt and figure out how to have a visual show as well as a music show because I think that’s where things are heading in terms of what the audience wants.”
Catch LSR/CITY and its otherworldly laser production during its 13-city and 16-show tour.
2/10/24: Vancouver – PNE Coliseum
2/15/24: San Jose – Civic Center
2/16/24: San Jose – Civic Center
2/17/24: Los Angeles – Palladium
2/18/24: Los Angeles – Palladium
2/22/24: Phoenix – Van Buren
2/24/23: Denver – Mission Ballroom
3/1/24: Minneapolis – Armory
3/2/24: Chicago – Radius
3/8/24: Montreal – New City Gas
3/9/24: Toronto – Rebel
3/10/24: Toronto – Rebel
3/15/24: New York City – Kings Theatre
3/16/24: Washington DC – Echostage
3/29/24: Austin – Concourse Project
3/30/24: Dallas – South Side Ballroom